(© Words by Paul F. Cowlan)
Dusk falls at Oamaru.
The tide flips rollers in and roils them into lace.
Out east the sky and ocean meld.
We watch, and wait.
No silhouette, no telltale gleam.
Waves flex and glitter;
and uncertain what we should expect
we fuss with lenses, meter-readings, focus, light.
Defences, checked and double checked.
While patiently the sea deals from the bottom of the deck;
flank after flank, slick and unpromising,
till night seems set to scuff them out of phase.
There are no messages.
Then there’s a fleck.
And a raft of sudden little question marks.
A swarm of tiny heads thrust up,
dumped in by swashing breakers,
and clawed back again
in shoals of blubber bubbles
rounding from the surf.
Silverfish bellies tumbled out of foam,
toes tucked against the ebb, they brace, dig in,
then flutter free and stumble shoreward,
The trade is, eggs and stone for flickering deeps and sinuous speed.
Sleek demilunes, denuded of their fleet attire,
teased by earth’s most ungiving element,
and fated to be jocular,
they breast tight grades and sheer ascents
to bring the sea back to their burrows.
And not a single photograph?
No camera interposed between us
and these slight shifters between worlds?
When rock and water state their terms,
make no mistake,
a photo wouldn’t help.